If you suffer from horrible bouts of anxiety before you take an assessment or walk into an interview — even if you’re someone who historically does well in these scenarios — you aren’t alone. Many students tell us about the anticipatory dread and fear they felt as they progressed through the assessment and admissions process, and these feelings can persist throughout your coding bootcamp experience.
At Fullstack, our ultimate goal is for you to be successful, and we recognize that you might need help even before you arrive on campus. Here are some surefire ways to combat assessment anxiety so you can focus on what’s really important: continuing to move in the direction of your dreams.
It may help calm your nerves to know as much about what to expect from the process as possible. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Fullstack offers answers to all those questions (and more) in our admissions FAQs.
One of the best ways to deal with assessment anxiety is to take the test so many times that you’re no longer intimidated by it. We often don’t consider this strategy because this isn’t possible in traditional school environments, where every score matters and there’s no practicing allowed. We’ve been trained to dread tests so much that most people wouldn’t dream of taking extra tests, anyway.
Coding bootcamp is not like that. Again, we want you to succeed, so we give you every opportunity to do so. And we live in a time in which the internet is chock full of platforms to help you practice and prepare.
So get to it. Study hard and regularly. If you’ve got friends thinking about bootcamp, set up a study group so you have accountability partners. The goal is not to practice until the one time you finally succeed (although that’s great, and we excitedly applaud your victory). Your goal should be to practice until you succeed every. single. time.
At Fullstack, interviews — in which applicants are asked to pair program—are conducted by teaching fellows. These are folks who have completed our training and applied to mentor the next cohort of students. All Fullstack and Grace Hopper grads have been trained to pair program, and fellows receive additional training specifically for interviews.
What this means for you is: the fellows interviewing you are on your side. They do not want you to fail, and they are not trying to trick you. They want you to do well. Remembering these points can help temper the insecurity or imposter syndrome you may be feeling.
Mindfulness and meditation are both extremely helpful practices when it comes to dealing with tension and uncomfortable situations. Being present in the moment can help cut away at the anxiety about other things—distress about the questions you failed on your practice test, frustration about traffic or subway delays, wondering if the interviewer will like you, etc.
Help yourself out by working the assessment into your schedule ahead of time. Not scheduling may lead to procrastination and then to stress and panic if you start to run out of time. Luckily, you have the power to avoid that. Identify the application deadline and then work backwards to find a day when you’ll have more time than you need, a stable environment to work in, and not too much else going on before and after that requires your attention.
Plan to arrive early to your interview, so you have time to get oriented. Once you’re there, try this 4-7-8 breathing exercise: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts, and then let it out for 8. Do that for several rounds, and you should feel more physically relaxed.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself outside of your studying and academic efforts. Exercise, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition are all important, especially leading up to the big day. Know your triggers and set yourself up for success. For example, if you know caffeine makes you extra jittery, it’s probably not a great idea to load up on a venti latte before you sit down to complete the assessment.
We know this one is easier said than done, but the way you talk to yourself is so important. When you find yourself disparaging yourself or your abilities, or thinking, “Ugh, I’ll never get this,” imagine a giant red STOP sign in your mind and then redirect your thinking. Ask yourself, “Why am I so hard on myself for not getting this right away? I am working hard to learn something new. I am doing okay.”
Finding small, positive substitutions to bolster your self-esteem can make a world of difference in the way you feel throughout this experience.
Try to remind yourself that anxiety isn’t necessarily all bad. You are nervous because you want to succeed, and that’s ultimately a good thing. Anxiety in small doses can actually help you to stay focused and put your best foot forward. The tools we’ve mentioned so far regarding being mindful and implementing positive self-talk can help you to keep your anxiety at a manageable, productive level where it can serve you without overwhelming you.
We mentioned the internet as a great resource for practice exercises; it’s also a wonderful place to discover strategies that worked for others. If it seems helpful, read pieces like this or student reviews, and don’t be afraid to try any tactic that calls out to you.
It can also be extremely helpful to talk to alums or current students about their experiences. At Fullstack, we host Q&A panels with alums so prospective students can meet them in-person and get any burning questions answered.
Completing an assessment or interview is no small feat. Coding bootcamps are competitive and selective, and the application process is notoriously challenging. Celebrate your commitment to showing up for yourself and pursuing your goals. Your reward could be anything that makes you feel good, from spending time with friends to treating yourself to a movie. You deserve it!
Ok, now that you know how to combat assessment anxiety–go for it! Apply with confidence to your dream bootcamp, and don’t let your anxiety or nerves keep you from getting in.